EAGAN, Minn.– The Vikings are sending condolences to the family and friends of Ron Groce, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 63.
Groce, selected in the 15th round of the 1976 NFL Draft, became the first Minneapolis native to sign with the Vikings.
The running back was released during final roster cuts, but then-Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn called Groce six games into the season and asked him to report to practice.
"I didn't consider anything but football," Groce told *Star Tribune *reporter Bruce Brothers during the 1977 training camp about his mindset after being initially released. "I figured my only chance was to put everything into football, and if I didn't make it, I could go on to graduate school and get a Master's in business. Not thinking about anything else was a positive thing. It reinforced and built up the confidence."
Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant appreciated Groce's size.
"Groce is a big, strong kid at about 228 pounds," Grant told Brothers. "The world is full of 190-pound running backs."
Groce contributed in four regular-season games for the Vikings and two postseason contests, including Super Bowl XI against the Raiders.
Born on July 1, 1954, Groce attended Minneapolis Central High School and later went on to play for Macalester College from 1972-75. He played for the Scots under Don Hudson, the first African-American head high school coach in the state of Minnesota. Hudson had also coached Groce at Central before transitioning to the college level.
Groce was an honorable mention Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection during the 1974 season at Macalester. As a senior in 1975, Groce was the third-leading rusher in the MIAC with 858 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He was voted as Mac's Most Valuable Player by his teammates.
In 2011, Groce was inducted into the Macalester College Hall of Fame. He also served on the M Club Board of Directors for three terms.